Written by MP Wright — After first appearing in the 2014 novel Heartman, private detective JT Ellington returns. Born in Barbados where he became a policeman, JT now lives in Bristol and is putting his skills to use. The book is set in the 1960s and JT approached by an austere woman from a local orphanage. She wants him to find a missing doctor, and a bundle of birth certificates he has removed from the Walter Wilkins Orphanage. She also asks JT to ask the doctor: “Where is the truth?”
JT accepts the case – and Ida Stephens’ cash – but we already have an advantage over him. The book’s prologue takes place on a US transport plane somewhere above the North Atlantic, and it is pretty clear that whatever it might say on the flight’s manifest, the real cargo is something sinister.
With the aid of his cousin Vic – imagine a dangerous version of Del Boy – JT locates the doctor without much ado, but almost immediately Dr Theodore Fowler is gunned down outside a disreputable pub. JT follows up what little information he has gleaned and makes a remarkable discovery which, if nothing else, goes someway to explaining Stephens’ search for the truth.
When JT is forced to go on the run from the bad guys, the novel picks up momentum, and there is a change of scenery. The story takes us to rural Somerset but instead of bucolic idyll JT finds he’s in possession of something that some rather dangerous and determined men want to get hold of. With only a handful of people he can trust, he’s pursued from a seaside filling station to a lonely and isolated pub, but then into the welcoming arms of a family of Irish tinkers, complete with painted caravan. Here, and when JT is bantering with his Bajan friends, anything spoken in an accent or dialect has been re-written phonetically. This becomes irritating after a while.
Fortunately, there is much more to this book than sometimes quirky dialogue. To recycle the sporting cliché much beloved by British football managers, MP Wright leaves nothing in the changing room. The action is full-on, violent, and no prisoners are taken, literally and metaphorically. JT Ellington himself is a very rewarding character and as you read his emotional capital grows and grows. He has a tragic past, which is always with him, particularly when he’s around young children. This history was explained fully in Heartman, but here it suffices that we are told that his wife and daughter died in a terrible fire for which he was blamed, but he knows that it was an act of murder by his enemies.
As All Through the Night concludes, MP Wright makes full use of Bristol’s scenic landscape to deliver a dramatic finale, where good clashes head-on with evil under the towers of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, with the River Severn running far beneath, deep down in the gorge.
As for JT’s future, it remains uncertain. He is a black man in 60s Britain with few transferable skills. The racism he faces is not just casual, but endemic, constant and debilitating. We are promised a final book in the trilogy, and hopefully that will see JT’s courage, honesty and compassion somehow rewarded.
Black & White Publishing
CFL Rating: 4 Stars